CRAIG LEWIS picks a South African XV based on performances in round 12 of Super Rugby.
On a weekend where all four South African teams were in action, the Sharks and Stormers stole the headlines with impressive wins over the Highlanders and Bulls respectively.
However, it was the Sharks who produced the standout performance of their season to date as they thrashed their highly regarded New Zealand opponents 38-12. As a result, they are rewarded with as many as eight selections this week.
Big centre André Esterhuizen was the deserved Man of the Match as he made 64m, 10 carries, beat seven defenders and completed eight tackles, but commentator Joel Stransky was on point when he mentioned that virtually every Sharks player had impressed during a dominant 80 minutes.
Curwin Bosch, Sbu Nkosi and Makazole Mapimpi were outstanding in the back three, while Lukhanyo Am underlined his class once again. Among the forwards, Jean-Luc du Preez again delivered a top-quality performance (38m made, 13 carries, five offloads, six tackles), while Akker van der Merwe produced an industrious effort at hooker (one try, 27m made, four tackles, one turnover).
The Stormers’ forwards particularly deserve plenty of credit for the manner in which they fronted up against the Bulls, with Pieter-Steph du Toit again emerging as a leading performer (21m made, 10 carries, 16 tackles and two turnovers won). Props Wilco Louw and Steven Kitshoff were also outstanding at scrum time, while making seven tackles each.
For the Bulls, Handré Pollard again demonstrated why he must be the frontrunner for the Bok No 10 jersey, although Damian Willemse and Rob du Preez both looked good for the Stormers and Sharks.
Meanwhile, Marnus Schoeman was the one true standout performer for the Lions in a losing cause, with the diminutive flanker completing a whopping 21 tackles.
SA TEAM OF THE WEEK (ROUND 11)
15. Curwin Bosch (Sharks)
14. Sbu Nkosi (Sharks)
13. Lukhanyo Am (Sharks)
12. André Esterhuizen (Sharks)
11. Makazole Mapimpi (Sharks)
10. Handré Pollard (Bulls)
9. Dewaldt Duvenage (Stormers)
8. Dan du Preez (Sharks)
7. Jean-Luc du Preez (Sharks)
6. Marnus Schoeman (Lions)
5. Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers)
4. Chris van Zyl (Stormers)
3. Wilco Louw (Stormers)
2. Akker van der Merwe (Sharks)
1. Steven Kitshoff (Stormers)
Photo: Gehard Duraan/BackpagePix